THE MAIN BATTLE TANK

AND

MECHANISED ARMOUR WARFARE

by Peter Eriksson


THE MODERN MBT


Todayís MBT is a very powerful machine. There are of course many different MBTís on the market today, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The American M1A2 Abrams, the German Leopard 2, the British Challenger 2, the French Leclerc and the Russian T-90 are all tanks that claims to be the best MBT in the world. Letís look a little closer on the Leopard 2 S, the version currently in service in Sweden under the designation Stridsvagn 122 or Strv.122. The Strv.122 is the most modern version of the Leopard 2. It is manned by four crewmen.
They are:
The driver. He is seated in the front section, offset to the right.
The loader. He is positioned to the left of the turret.
The gunner. He is seated in the right of the turret.
The commander. He is seated behind the gunner and slightly higher.

This configuration can be considered the standard on most modern MBT:s in the western world (Not the Leclerc and not the T-90). The tank weights 62 tons combat loaded and measures 7.72m in length (not counting the gun) and 3.75m in width. The Strv.122 is powered by a 47.6 litre V-12 diesel engine, delivering 1500 Hp @ 2600 rpm , giving the tank a maximum speed of 68 km/h. While reversing the top-speed of the tank lies around 30 km/h. At the back of the tank a small video camera is mounted giving the driver a TV-picture of the terrain behind the tank on a small display inside the veichle. With this system the commander never needs to direct the driver while the tank reverses and thereby allowing him to concentrate on commanding the tank. The Strv.122 can climb 60% gradients and vertical obstacles 1.10 meters high. It can also engage 3 metre wide trenches without to much fuss.

Strv.122 is equipped with a 120mm Rheinmetall smoothbore tank gun. The Rheinmetall gun is the standard tank gun in the western armies used both in the M1 and in a slightly modified version, the Challenger2. The gun has 42 rounds of ammunition. Out of these 42 rounds, 15 are carried in a vault in the turret behind the loader. An electrically manoeuvred sliding door separates the ammunition from the crew giving them a certain amount of protection in case the ammunition explodes. The remaining rounds are kept to the left of the driver in a special ammunition rack. The ammunition consists of APFSDS , HEAT-MP-T , HEAT-GP , smoke and anti-helicopter grenades. Co-axial with the main gun, a 7.62mm machine gun is mounted. This one can be fired either by the loader manually or the gunner and commander remotely. On top of the loaders hatch another 7.62mm machinegun is mounted for air-defence. On each side of the turret a GIAT Industries GALIX veichle-protection system is mounted. A GALIX consists of four 80mm mortar tubes capable of delivering screening smoke, missile decoys, illumination flares and anti-personnel grenades.

The Strv.122 is equipped with advanced sights used for detecting and defeating targets on the battlefield. Laser-rangefinders, IR-detectors and optical aids are examples. The gunner and the commander on the Strv.122 have separate sights enabling them to engage targets in the so-called "hunter-killer" mode. The commander/"hunter" uses his PERI-R 17 sight to locate a target for engagement and with a simple push of a button he align the gun with the target. Then the gunner/"killer" takes over and selects the ammunition suitable for the attack. The gunner then engages the target tough his own sights until it is destroyed or put out of action. After the commander has given the target to the gunner he continues with his search for the next target. This procedure enables the crew to engage targets faster than a tank with the same sights for both the commander and the gunner.

A tank today is a very advanced, hi-tech vehicle. They are often equipped with computer systems capable of detecting failures in the engine, suspension and electronics, so-called self-diagnostic programs. The driver in the Strv.122 can for example see on his display if the engine is not working properly and make the proper adjustments before the problem grows worse. An example of the ingenuity of the MBT constructors is the device fitted in the engine airintakes. If the air to the engine should be to hot because of a napalm attack against the tank the device stops the air into the engine, thereby preventing the engine to be destroyed.